Soybean variety selection is the first step in producing a high-yielding soybean crop. Each variety has specific strengths that can make it highly suited for a certain environment but less suited for another. Soybean maturity and disease tolerance are 2 of the most important traits to consider when selecting a variety. However, other traits may be just as critical for local environments such as high pH soils.
Selecting the appropriate maturity is essential to maximizing soybean yield. Each variety has a relatively narrow geographical range in which it will perform as a “full-season” crop, utilizing all of the available growing season but still reaching physiological maturity before frost. This geographical range is usually no wider than 100 to 150 miles north to south. This is because soybean development depends on summer day length, which is shorter in the South than in the North.
When the days begin to shorten in the summer, a soybean variety in its ideal geographical range is triggered to flower. When a variety is grown north of its ideal geography, it will flower later in the season when the days shorten. Thus, the variety will mature later than normal and may be at risk of a killing frost. Conversely, if a northern variety is moved south, it will flower earlier than it would in its ideal geography. If flowering occurs before the variety reaches adequate height, yields may be reduced.
Ideal maturity is also influenced by planting date, as illustrated by a 2013 Pioneer study that evaluated the response of different soybean maturities planted at 3 timings. Maturity group 2.8 and 3.0 varieties had the greatest yield with mid-May planting (Figure 1). Longer maturity varieties yielded well with either late April or mid-May planting.
In a 2-year Pioneer study conducted at several high pH sites in Minnesota, IDC-tolerant varieties outyielded susceptible varieties by an average of 18 bu/acre (Figure 4).